It’s that time once again in which our staff pulls together to come up with a list of our favourite games of the year so far. Obviously, with the hundreds of games already released in 2018 already, nobody at Goomba Stomp has had the time or stamina to play through every single one of them. With that in mind, we hope this list comes in handy. Not only does it reflect the tastes of our writers and what games we’ve enjoyed playing during the first half of 2018, but we hope it will inspire some of our readers to catch up on some of the amazing titles that they might have missed. Here is the list of the best games of 2018 so far.
With a surprisingly deep gameplay gimmick and monochromatically cozy atmosphere, Minit quietly crept up this year as one of the most unique and memorable games I’ve played in a long time.
The premise is simple enough: You’re a tiny man blob thing who just happens to pick up a cursed sword that causes you to die in sixty seconds. Upon death, you return (or rather, respawn) to your starting location, and have to solve puzzles and find shortcuts as you explore the game’s charming world.
And what a world it is, full of kooky characters and creatures, and mysteries abound. Many of which you’ll across on your way to where the sword supposedly came from (i.e. the cursed sword factory). You know, to break the curse or whatever, of course!
With the feel of solving a somewhat complicated Zelda dungeon combined with dialogue and NPC interactions reminiscent of games like Secret of Monkey Island, Earthbound, Undertale and as I mentioned in my full review, even comic books like Goodbye Chunky-rice, it’s not one to be missed.
And it looks good too! Its simple pixel-esque style is really charming, and by the end of your quest, you’ll grow to love this at times pretty and at times worn-down grimy world.
At least two playthroughs are recommended to get a complete gist of the game. “New Game+” serves up a more challenging and intense version of the regular first go, but you don’t have to choose it and can start a regular new game, as well. There’s more than one way to “solve” the game, so you might be curious to play it more than once anyway.
Available on PC, PS4 and Xbox One, Minit’s also planned for a Nintendo Switch release at some point hopefully this year. It’s the kind of game that’s going to perfect for the Switch, and you bet I’ll be double-dipping. (Maxwell N.)
14. Warhammer: Vermintide 2
Strange subterranean races of mutants may be the stuff of urban legends and the recurring nightmates of conspiracy theorists the world over, but in the Warhammer world they’re very much a reality. When Games Workshop decided to end the Old World in an effort to revitilize sales of their flagging franchise they might have slightly underestimated attachment to the intellectual property as fans had come to love it. Fortunately, the developers over at Fatshark, either out of passion or contractual obligations, had the wherewithall to give fans exactly what they wanted. Warhammer: Vermintide 2 expands on the 2015 original title in every way. The maps are rich and detailed, fully capturing the cataclysmic grime that makes the Warhammer world so bizarrely charming. The inclusion of subclasses for the four playable characters expands player options in a way that completely eclipses the previous game, and means that players can cater their favorite character to match their preferred playstyle.
Unsurprisingly for a game that revolves entirely around slaughtering legions of skittering monsters and squads of hideously warped soldiers, the mobs are the star of the show. The standard range of Skaven are complimented by a range of special creatures with their own strengths and weakness that force players to react on the fly as they spawn, so that even relatively quiet moments are fraught with tension as you never know when a pack of Stormvermin are going to march around a corner or a slithering Chaos Spawn will come barrelling towards you like its on sabbatical from a Lovecraftian daydream. Warhammer: Vermintide 2 may not be the cleverest or most interesting game to be released in 2018, but its balls-to-the-wall action, attention to detail, and unrelenting pace definitely make it one of the most entertaining games to hit the market thus far. (Christopher Underwood)
13. Sea of Thieves
Sea of Thieves made waves earlier this year when it released on Xbox One and PC due to the uniqueness of its experience. Gather a crew, board a ship, and set sail across a vast ocean while trying to complete certain quests to increase your relationship with three different factions. Enemy players will also be sailing in the same environment, which can make for some intense ship battles over each crew’s respective loot. The experience certainly has a lot going for it, especially when it comes to the sense of freedom. However, the overall quality of the game will depend on the support it gets in the future.
The base game released with a stark lack of content, which left many players disappointed. Rare has promised free content updates in the future, which could certainly remedy many of the issues of the game. They’ve already added a new giant shark fight to accompany the Kraken battles, so that’s a great sign. There’s so much potential with an open world pirate simulator like this, so it would be a real shame if it never turned into the game it was meant to be. With more quests, enemies, and a revised progression system, Sea of Thieves could become one of the best multiplayer games this year.
That being said, what’s here is still a ton of fun with the right group of friends. Each play session almost feels like a new story being created with your pals, which is something not many other titles have been able to capture. (Zack Rezak)
12. Yakuza 6
Yakuza 6: The Song of Life had the misfortune of coming out at roughly the same time as God of War. There’s no question which of these games was going to sell better come mid-April, but don’t count the Dragon of Dojima out. The conclusion to Kazuma Kiryu’s decade-and-a-half-long saga brings a lot of new things to the table while also refining a lot of the aspects that made previous games so charming. The game’s street brawling beat ‘em up has been simplified down from the previous game, but comes with a variety of ways to toy with the environment. You can slam bikes, traffic cones, and couches down on top of people to finish them off, but there are also plenty of comedic and inventive ways to make use of the environment around you.
Equally as entertaining as the combat is the variety of side-quests you can undertake, which range from simple missions about stopping street hustlers to helping a young couple that swapped bodies when they fell down a flight of stairs. All the while, Yakuza 6’s main plot brings the franchises main story to a finite conclusion, one filled with the same action and drama that’s kept the franchise enjoyable and interesting since its debut on the PlayStation 2. The biggest weakness of Yakuza 6 is that it’s a sequel and not the best place to hop into the franchise from. The game gives you a bit of backstory to catch you up with what has happened in previous games, but you really don’t get the full emotional ride if you haven’t experienced it firsthand. Thankfully, Yakuza and Yakuza 2 have been given a makeover for the PlayStation 4, and 3, 4, and 5 were recently announced to be getting modern console upgrades as well. Yakuza 6: The Song of Life is a great story-driven brawler, and is easily one of the better niche titles that have been released this year. (Taylor Smith)
11. BlazBlue Cross Tag Battle
I went into BlazBlue Cross Tag Battle with relatively low expectations and came out thoroughly impressed. The characters are so colorful and full of personality that it actually made me want to go back and check out their individual series. The game is dripping with style and charisma, and looks especially great in handheld mode on the Switch. The character design–though based on existing characters–is simply top-notch and beautifully realized. I’m not sure if the original voice actors from all franchises involved are reprising their roles here, but the voice work in the game is also stellar. Despite not being familiar with any of these series, I can tell that the personalities of each of these characters were translated with effort and purpose to their in-game counterparts.
I typically hate playing fighting games online, and yet BBTAG’s online experience was so seamless and reliable that I couldn’t help but come back consistently. Arc obviously learned a ton from their mishaps with all of the Dragon Ball FighterZ betas and implemented that knowledge here. Getting into rooms was fast and seamless, and challenging another player once inside was easy and intuitive.
Arc managed to succeed once again in creating a game both deep and approachable. I found at least five characters that I was able to pick up in the first few hours, but it wasn’t until after 6-8 hours of grinding online that I started to actually get good with them. Plus, the game features absolutely adorable chibi versions of fighters that do things like wave, sit, jump for joy, throw tantrums, and dance. They even do little punching motions while queuing up for a match! What’s there not to love? (Brent Middleton)
10. Kingdom Come: Deliverance
Life in medieval Europe was short, pointless, and often very lethal. However, it was also a time of great adventure and has been the backdrop of endless tales of heroism and valor. Kingdom Come: Deliverance is the attempt to marry both of these ideas together into a brutal but engaging RPG.
The most immediately engaging part of Kingdom Come is it’s attention to detail, which sets it apart from most other games. Every piece of clothing, armor, and weaponry, never mind the map and the people you interact with, has been painstakingly researched and developed with historians working with the game’s staff. At times it feels like interactive history and were it not for the incredibly mature story and writing you could honestly use this in schools.
The story itself is excellent and sits up there with the likes of The Witcher 3 for how it draws you in. Henry of Skalitz is possibly the most endearing player character of the year and his story is well told and easy to follow. It’s easy to see his growth turning from the orphaned son of a blacksmith to a capable man in his own right and there’s a decent mix of comedy and drama that makes him easy to love.
The game isn’t totally without its flaws, unfortunately. On PC it’s a system hog and on consoles, it’s locked at 30fps forever. It’s AI can be wonky, and there are numerous bugs and glitches all over the place. But it’s also a game with massive potential and it offers an incredibly detailed world to explore and a huge amount of quests to complete and skills to advance in.
Overall Kingdom Come is one of the most interesting games of the year, and it focuses on immersion and historical accuracy goes well with it’s more traditional RPG gameplay. With regular updates from the developers, along with a burgeoning mod community, anyone burnt out on games like Far Cry or Skyrim should certainly give this a look. (Andrew Vandersteen)
9. Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey Redux
Atlus’ decision to celebrate Shin Megami Tensei’s 25th anniversary with a remake of 2009’s Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey was questionable at best. Not only was Strange Journey already an outlier among the mainline titles, it was also the entry that would benefit the least from an immediate update. Strange Journey Redux, titled Deep Strange Journey in Japan, seemed like a misguided attempt at celebrating the franchise, one that didn’t fully capture the core Shin Megami Tensei experience. Which is why it was so important Atlus choose Strange Journey as their anniversary game. There is no core Shin Megami Tensei experience, and Strange Journey Redux reflects that. It’s a black sheep within the series, but it’s one that still captures the essence of SMT while adding its own unique flavor.
Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey Redux may be an atypical game to represent the series, but it actually does offer a glimpse at the series as it once was on the Super Famicom. Battles occur in the first person, as does dungeon crawling, and the conflict between Law and Chaos feels more in line with how it was depicted in the first Shin Megami Tensei compared to the rest of the series. Strange Journey Redux isn’t exactly a love letter to SMT, as it does have its fair share of twists on the formula, most notably straying away entirely from Japan as a setting and featuring a main cast composed entirely of adults, but it does feel conceptual and thematically appropriate as a celebration title.
Most importantly, Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey Redux is just a phenomenal game. As a remake, it improves upon every aspect of the original with new content that genuinely only adds to the experience. As its own game, it’s easily one of the best entries in the series, and one of the best JRPGs this generation, period. It’s a mature, thought-provoking game with the best dungeons the franchise has seen, and a difficulty curve that discourages complacency. Whether you approach it as a fan looking to commemorate 25 years of SMT, or a newcomer just trying to break into the franchise, Shin Megami Tensei: Strange Journey Redux will stick with you for years to come. (Renan Fontes)
8. Batman: The Enemy Within
When evaluating the quality of a game like this it’s worth considering the following: how many Batman stories have been told since the character premiered nearly 80 years ago, how many games Telltale have developed since hitting the big time in 2012, and how many point and click games have joined them in the marketplace due to this success.
With all of that in mind, it’s a tremendous achievement that Telltale’s second season in its Batman arc is able to not just stand out from the pack but also tell one of the best Batman stories in years.
Centered around Bruce Wayne’s attempts to infiltrate a gang of supercriminals, Batman: The Enemy Within wastes no time taking incredibly bold steps in redefining the Batman mythos. Hell, two key characters are offed within the first episode alone. However, it isn’t until you reach the end of this fascinating dissection of the caped crusader that you really see the level of depth that Telltale is putting into this series.
With two dynamically different finales, featuring entirely separate plot lines, Batman: The Enemy Within is the fulfillment of Telltale’s promise to make us feel like our choices really do matter. (Mike Worby)
7. Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology
Normally we don’t allow remasters and ports onto these kinds of lists but with completely redone art assets, newly voiced cutscenes, and an entirely new alternative scenario, Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology proves that it is more than just a simple port. Based on the original 2010 DS game, Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology follows Stocke as he is faced with the imminent desertification of his world. To prevent this he must utilize a magical tome called the White Chronicle to jump between two different timelines to set history on its proper, razor-thin course that doesn’t end in utter destruction.
As complicated as time travel stories can get, Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology manages to keep itself in check and never goes too far off the deep end. That said, it still manages to use its time travel mechanics in interesting ways, especially when it comes to side quests that require figuring out not just “where” to go, but “when” as well.
The battle system is an interesting turn-based style where enemies are on a 3×3 grid while your party members line up opposite. Various attacks can shift the positions of enemies around the grid, allowing for the setup of combos. Shoving one enemy into a tile occupied by another will allow the next party member’s attack to hit both. Some enemies may occupy more than one space and others may be rooted to their own, mixing up each encounter so that they don’t grow stale. Cleverly manipulating all the enemies on the grid to occupy a single space then unleashing holy hellfire on them all at once is a greatly gratifying maneuver.
Radiant Historia: Perfect Chronology is sadly going to fly under many people’s’ radars. It’s simple presentation isn’t all too charming and it’s released for a system that is being overshadowed more and more by the Switch each passing day. That’s a shame because this is a quality game that any fan of JRPG’s shouldn’t let pass by. (Matthew Ponthier)
6. Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon
As far as Kickstarter stretch goals go, this is a Cristiano Ronaldo bicycle kick. Koji Igarashi and Inti Creates promised an 8-bit spin-off from Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, and drive a stake through my heart if they didn’t deliver. Curse of the Moon looks, sounds and feels just like the 8 bit Castlevania titles on NES. Players can swap between four different characters, ala Castlevania 3, on the fly as they progress through a handful of beautifully crafted levels – each of which culminates with a challenging boss fight.
It strikes a real chord for the talent Igarashi possesses when it comes to effortlessly craft titles within the genre he helped to define. What could be dismissed as a throwaway, token effort to appease the backers of the main event, Curse of the Moon is a very sufficient starter to the main course. It’s got everything a game of this type should have: the moody castles, the pulsating chiptune soundtrack, restrictive jumping, whips, candles to be destroyed – it’s all here and it functions on a much higher level than a simple box-ticking exercise. Thanks to the decades of experience gained in the aftermath of the titles it apes, Curse of the Moon feels respectful and refined in equal measure.
The game might not necessarily be very long, but levels have multiple routes and there are three difficulty levels, which is more than enough for the incredibly meager asking price. What’s more, this is the exact type of game speed-runners love, and I’m sure it’ll appear to be destroyed at a GDQ in no time. Until then, we mere mortals can enjoy one of the more satisfying retro throwbacks of the year. (Alex Aldridge)
5. Monster Hunter World
Monster Hunter: World may not be the very best game of the year so far, but it deserves recognition. We’re only half way through the year, yet January seems like a lifetime ago. It was a time where everyone in the world was sinking crazy hours into a JRPG/MMO. A period where we slaved away, grinded and slaughtered majestic creatures for a fancy pair of leggings. Monster Hunter: World didn’t have the best story, and yes it could be a bit of a slog at times, but it’s nailed the premise of games as a service, possibly even better than Destiny has.
It might not be my game of the year, but I’ll never forget the night I spent an hour desperately facing off against a dragon of gargantuan size, dodging tirelessly, whittled down to my last drop of health. Then out of nowhere three other players swooped in and bombarded the dragon with arrows, explosions, and slashes. We fought together, claimed our rewards and then went our separate ways. Despite never seeing them again, we shared that victory. (Chris Bowring)
Celeste elevates video games. This deceptively simple-looking platform game hooks you in with a mixture of tight platforming mechanics and a sharp style, but then leaps further up the mountain of video game history and brings emotional resonance to its narrative in unexpected ways. In itself, Celeste looks and sounds beautiful, and is deeply rewarding to simply play and get good at. Each stage is a carefully designed 16-bit set-piece, and every screen of every level is well-crafted and satisfying to overcome, as much a puzzle as a brutal challenge of dexterity. Celeste relies upon the tightly-implemented mechanic of jumping and air-jumping, but this expands in nuanced ways that feel deeply satisfying to understand and to master. But where Celeste travels further and evolves video games is in its unprecedented fusion of gameplay and storytelling.
The narrative and character arcs of Celeste are woven into every element of its gameplay and progression. The improbable tasks of reflecting upon deep ideas surrounding depression and anxiety are manifested within the gameplay itself (and via a few carefully structured and thoughtful dialogues and moments of glorious calm). It often feels impossible to get through a particular stage, just as it may feel often impossible to get through a particular day, but the solution opens up and feels utterly aligned with the emotional journey of Celeste’s endearing protagonist, Madison.
Tying Madison’s emotional journey to gameplay progression continues to unfold as you climb further up the mountain and learn more about her inner world. Celeste subtly acknowledges that we each climb a mountain in our lives, and with a light touch that feels natural alongside its excellent gameplay and design, Celeste’s unprecedented emotional narrative unfolds as you climb – both light-hearted and heartfelt. It never gets in the way of a fine gameplay experience. Celeste is not only one of the greatest games of the last six months, it is one of the greatest games of the last decade. Climb that mountain. (Marty Allen)
3. A Way Out
A Way Out might be slightly hampered by its relatively run-of-the-mill narrative and a series of gameplay mechanics that, though varied, are wildly hit and miss in terms of quality. But there’s plenty to love about Josef Fares’ (Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons) latest offering nevertheless.
Joint protagonists Vincent Moretti and Leo Caruso are both excellent characters whose contrasting personalities complement one another perfectly: the development of their initially tentative alliance into a believable and satisfying friendship, in particular, is one of the brightest aspects of the entire game. While the generous release model, which lets two players share a single copy of the already below-full-price game, the performances of its two lead actors deserve plenty of praise too.
However, the stand out feature of A Way Out is, of course, its unique approach to cooperative play. Only playable with a partner, A Way Out is a game that’s totally reliant on communication – not just to navigate the more complex sections of gameplay, but to properly understand and appreciate events on screen and their importance to the characters as they unfold.
Because of this, it’s also a game that fully immerses the player in its stylized take on 70’s America – far more so that should really be possible for a tale with as many derivative story beats as A Way Out possesses. And, when all these superb features are combined with a gently branching narrative, there’s more than enough on offer to warrant repeat playthroughs.
If you’re looking for a one-of-a-kind cooperative experience that doesn’t devolve into arguments about who gets to play as Meta Knight or Oddjob ahead of your next game night, look no further than A Way Out. (John Websell)
2. Far Cry 5
Far Cry 5 is a game that has encountered controversy ever since the first image was released, largely thanks to Ubisoft’s decision to set the game in Hope County, a fictional region in rural Montana overrun by a doomsday cult called the Project at Eden’s Gate. Although this cult has no coherent doctrine, and its structure doesn’t resemble real-world cults in the slightest, it has nevertheless managed to anger many game critics who for some reason were expecting an entry in the Far Cry series to send a clear political message and perhaps address the polarized nature of current American politics?
But seriously folks, this is the fifth entry in a series that has never taken itself too seriously. It’s a sandbox adventure known for its non-stop action, extreme violence and cruelty – all of which is juxtaposed with over-the-top humor and bombast. The truth is, Far Cry 5 may not be the best game of 2018 but it is the most fun game I’ve played so far this year. It fully embraces what the series does best while Ubisoft has thankfully done away with some of the franchise’s most frustrating aspects.
There are plenty of welcome new additions including the Arcade Mode that includes a powerful map editor, allowing you to create challenges and share them with other players, and an escort system that allows you to hire and fight alongside up to two other characters who you meet in the game, each of whom brings special skills into combat (my personal favorite being a dog named Boomer). Meanwhile, the side missions are a blast to play through; the game looks absolutely gorgeous, and it features one Hell of an ending. There’s really so much to love here that it makes it easy to overlook what the game lacks in story. If you are a fan of the series and haven’t yet had a chance to play Far Cry 5, I highly recommend it. (Ricky D)
1. God of War
Like so many popular video game franchises that have reinvented themselves in recent years, the new God of War offers a twist by shifting its focus to Norse mythology, casting off the iconic Greek gods for that of Asgard. The move northward sees Kratos, for the first time in five years, on a long and trying journey to scatter his late wife’s ashes on the tallest mountain in Norse mythology, while accompanied by his young son Atreus. Kratos doesn’t think his son is ready for the trek, but due to unforeseen circumstances, Kratos can’t wait any longer
There is a long list of reasons as to why many have called God of War a masterpiece. I could praise the stunningly gorgeous world – here is a game in which every frame is heightened by the game’s distinctive color palette, sensual light, and smoky haze. There’s an intimacy and unspoken emotion in God of War that not only can be felt, it seems like you can touch it. God of War is without a doubt one of the best-looking console games ever released, and it’s all framed by one continuous camera shot to boot. I could also praise Bear McCreary’s incredible soundtrack which gravitates toward low orchestral instruments, Icelandic choir, folk percussion, and Nordic stringed instruments to craft a unique theme for each and every character. And then there is the hard-hitting combat that grows more feverish and impressive as you progress, not to mention Kratos’ signature weapon, the Leviathan Axe, which is one of the best weapons in any video game.
Like its predecessors, God of War is indeed a technical and artistic showcase but masterpiece this would not be without its renewed focus on storytelling that sets a new bar for what can be accomplished in the world of AAA games. The previous installments of the God of War series (which debuted in 2005) had little time to explore the emotional landscape of its testosterone-pumped protagonist, but what’s become of the bruting death machine in the latest installment is what leaves the biggest impression. This time around, the furious, bloodthirsty icon has transformed into a sensitive father figure and while part of him retains the old violent tendencies that we remember him for, Kratos, for the most part, holds back his savage ways in order to be a positive role model. As a result, the relationship between father and son is everything.
In short, God of War has some of the best storytelling and best character development in any video game. Take that away and what you are left with is yet another traditional hack-n-slash game, albeit a beautiful one. (Ricky D)